So here’s the thing. I hate spending more money than I have to and I like to think I am fact based in my decision making when it comes to buying stuff.
Since El Cheapo left for a new home I have definitely felt that the guitar rack at home has been a little empty (ironic because due to one thing and another I have hardly managed to pickup a guitar in the last 4-5 weeks) and I figured I wanted to get another Les Paul type guitar; mahogany body with dual alnico humbuckers, but this time with a set rather than bolt-on neck. I began researching the options.
The obvious choice would be a Gibson Les Paul Studio. The Studio model is about the same as the classic Les Paul Standard (which is way out of my budget at around $1200 used), but the maple cap that sits on the mahogany body does not have the same kind of figuring, the finishes used are plainer and there is no binding on the body. It’s a Made in the USA Les Paul without the bling. The cheapest of these guitars retail for about $800 new, so let’s say $720 after tax and a bit of haggling.This should put them in the $450-$550 range second hand. Add a case and we’re talking $500-$600. With the $250 I got for El Cheapo and the little Mustang amp, plus maybe another $150 from selling my bass and I would still be at least $100 short.
So then I started thinking about Gibson’s budget brand; Epiphone. You can get a very cheap Epi Les Paul Special II for as little as $150 new, but they are unworthy of the name, being made out of plywood, having a bolt on neck and cheap ceramic pickups.
In order to get a mahogany, set neck Epiphone, you have to look at the Studio or Standard models starting at about $400 new. In theory it should be possible to pick one of these up for $300 or less, but whenever I have tried these guitars out in the store I have been deeply unimpressed.
So I started casting the net a little wider. Ibanez, ESP-LTD and Schecter all do nice looking Paul-alikes starting at about $400. But in the entry models, ceramic pickups seem to be the norm and I really want alnico. You also have to add in the cost of a hard case. These brands also seem to gravitate to metal/shredder guitars as you go up in price point, adding active EMG pickups. This is not the classic Les Paul vibe I’m after.
Michael Kelly do a nicely specced line of guitars called the Patriot, but the body shape is somehow a little off. A Paul Reed Smith Singlecut SE also could’ve been an option, used. But they are pretty rare and are also reputed to have a tone which is lighter and airier than a ‘real’ Les Paul.
But while surfing the web, doing searches such as “best Les Paul under $1000”, then one particular brand kept on popping up– the Korean made Agile guitars, in the US only sold on-line via Rondo Music. The higher end AL-3XXX guitars have specs that you would find on Gibson/Epiphone guitars costing twice as much. Agile has won a devoted following on the web. The quality of the intstruments is said to be excellent. They also, right now have a discounted line of Les Paul style guitars, the AL-3010SE, which seems to be the same as the regular AL-3010, but with plainer appointments (binding, maple top figuring) and a different bridge, but selling for $299. With a flame maple top and ebony fingerboard (as opposed to rosewood), you’d have to compare it to the higher end, Korean (rather than Chinese) made Epiphone Les Paul Plus Customs, which start at about $600.
But after adding in a case and delivery I ended up paying about $380. I should receive my new Agile TODAY! Can’t wait!